Video shows officer taking down handcuffed man at Sanford bar, police say

Family says officer used excessive force

By Adrienne Cutway - Web Editor

SANFORD, Fla. - A Sanford police officer has been placed on administrative leave after video posted online showed him taking down a handcuffed man at a popular bar, department officials said.

Police said the takedown happened Monday at The Barn, located on French Avenue.

Sanford Police Chief Cecil Smith said he wants to be transparent about the investigation, which is why the department released the body camera video and video shared on social media.

"One of city employees reached out to me via text on Tuesday evening and said, 'Chief why don't you tale a look at this and you probably want to take steps to address,'" Smith said.

Body camera footage from Officer Adam Johnson and other officers showed chaos in the club with yelling, drinks being thrown and people pushing each other. It's unclear how the incident began.

Officers wrote in their reports that Morrell Byrd was standing on a table punching the bar's air conditioning unit and he replied with an expletive when officers asked him to get down.

An officer grabbed Byrd and pulled him off the table when he refused to get down, the report said, which cause Byrd to fall down. As Byrd was being placed in handcuffs, Christopher Hills approached and said Byrd was his cousin and tried to interfere in the arrest, according to authorities.

Christopher Hill's sister was with them during the incident.
 
Hill said her brother and cousin, along with other people in their group were standing on chairs. Not once did she see them stand on a table.

"Christopher was standing, like, in a chair but everyone was doing that in the bar. The owner, he let you do that," Hill said. 

Family members said the cousins were at the bar celebrating Hill's birthday so they got a VIP table and were standing on chairs while they partied. They said officers were targeting them throughout the night. 

Video posted by a witness shows Byrd already in handcuffs when Johnson lunges at him, taking him down to the ground. 

Both men were charged with resisting arrest and battery on a law enforcement officer. An attorney from Mount and Nash law firm is representing the duo.

“All aspects of the incident, including the events before, during, and after are currently being reviewed in order to determine if any violations of policy occurred. I had the opportunity to speak with the mother of the young man in the video and will continue to keep her informed regarding the progress of the investigation. We are thankful for proactive actions of our community members, in bringing any information, positive or negative, to our attention so we may continue to serve our community in an open and transparent manner. We ask for everyone’s patience during this process as we conduct a thorough and complete investigation. We will continue to remain transparent and forthcoming with additional updates as the investigation allows,” Smith said in a statement to the public.

Family of Byrd and Hill are seeking  legal action. They plan to hold at a rally at The Barn on Sunday. 

Johnson is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation. He has been with the department since December 2007 and has not had any complaints filed against him this year, according to department records.

Chief Smith is asking anyone with additional video from Monday's incident to come forward. 

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